I’ve tried to start three other blog posts, but this one has to come first before I continue my stream of thought.
So, if you haven’t noticed, there’s a massive movement going on outside. I don’t want to ramble for too long. Frankly, I don’t see this blog post changing minds or influencing people. I already have a small readership, and I generally write for my own therapeutic reasons and not to take a firm stance on social issues. I’m a firm believer in two sides to every story. I want to be adequately educated on the subject before I jump right in with my opinion, and even then, there are always valid arguments on each side. I aim to be a peacekeeper and unbiased educator in both my personal life and online. All of this is the preface for the narrative you’re about to dive into.
George Floyd was killed about a month ago. At first I thought to myself, “What a shame, another Black guy killed needlessly by a cop.” Similar stories have popped up every now and then for the last ten years. It’s terrible, but how can we fix it? Police are police, after all. Many were quick to dig up the dirty pasts of the victims to justify the killings. I can’t say for sure what was so different about the death of George Floyd. I have a theory that the widespread lock downs triggered a lot of anxiety in the entire population–an anxiety of which the police are not immune. There were several other unwarranted deaths of Black men and women during the lock down periods–including Breonna Taylor, an EMT that was shot in her bed after working a shift.
Honestly, the event was out of my mind in a matter of hours. It wasn’t until I saw the news of the looting of the Target that I got more involved. One of my Black friends posted on Facebook “How is looting going to help anything?” And I commented, “It’s so frustrating! Two wrongs don’t make a right!”
Well. As you can imagine, people (that don’t personally know me) CAME. FOR. ME. I was strong in my belief that the riots were wrong and unfair to everyone, including members of the Black community. The ladies that responded in the comments accused me of overlooking the murder while I condemned the violence. I tried to argue that I wasn’t ignoring the murder, but rioting wasn’t an acceptable form of protest. I finally just deleted my original comment and wrote to the author of the post in a private message. I apologized for offending her friends and hoped she understood that I just didn’t understand why people thought violence was going to solve more violence. She replied some time later that she never even saw the comment or the responses but she knew my heart was in the right place. Meanwhile, I had written to two of my closest friends to vent about how these women had called me racist when they didn’t even know me. However, each of my friends (one white, one Black) argued with me until, at the very least, I could see how what I had said was offensive.
I decided the only thing I could do was apologize to the first girl that came after me. I wrote her a private message that she might have never seen (she never responded, at least) and then she and the other lady tagged me in more comments to say I was “dirty deleting” and was refusing to be educated. So that didn’t feel great. I guess that’s what I get for breaking my own rule and failing to educate myself before engaging in a discussion. After learning more about that the Targets of Minneapolis, I actually count it separate from what I’ll refer to later as “senseless rioting”.
Well, those conversations I had with my friends changed the way I viewed the entire thing. I wrote a post on Facebook to admit that I was wrong about my methods and beliefs and that, looking forward, I was going to do my best to strive for a change in the world. I shared a post from a friend who voiced her feelings as a white ally more eloquently than I knew I could. I became active on social media to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. I started to have difficult conversations with my friend and with my mom (who is not quite as enthusiastic for the movement so those were especially tough) and I have tried to educate myself on multiple matters pertaining to recent events. Below, I have listed my findings.
Protests vs. Riots: After having more personal conversations with others that attended protests and saw first-hand what the movement was actually like, I realized that real “rioting” (very different from “protesting”) was getting an insanely disproportionate amount of attention from the media than it actually deserves. I heard personal accounts from 4 different protests in 4 different major cities (Houston, Kansas City, Denver, and L.A.). The general description of the protests is largely the same. Thousands of people unite with signs, chants, and actions. They either march, sit, lay down, etc. with a speaker or two to help educate those that have arrived. (In Houston, for instance, the march was specifically to educate on what to do and where to go if you feel that you’ve been a victim of racial prejudice.) There were small “sects” (to borrow a word from my Houston friend) that would break off and try to start riots or raids on businesses along the marching path, but the masses of the protest would hold them back or refuse to be associated with it. In Kansas City and L.A., the story was much the same.
Police Involvement at Protests: Again, I am taking this information from first-hand accounts of peaceful protesters. Online (social media or news outlets) I had read that the police were being attacked at the protests and then retaliating. While I do not have any accounts from Minneapolis (as I know it is unique as being the epicenter for this whole situation), in the four cities I do know of, this was not the case. In both Kansas City and Denver, my friends said that there was no angry threat toward the police from the crowds and that they had mostly “uneventful” protests (except that my Houston friend said there was a moment where the police fired teargas into the crowd for seemingly no reason). In L.A., however, the story is quite different, painting a very villainous portrait of the police at those protests. I’ll link a video at the bottom of this blog for you to hear more.
Defunding the Police: After that first weekend of protests when I was talking to two of my friends (KC and Houston), I asked each of them the same question. What are we trying to accomplish with protests? One agreed with my personal statement. Awareness only goes so far and there has to be an end goal to accomplish, even though I had no idea what it would be. The other insisted that awareness would draw attention that would bring about the change we needed. Honestly, neither were wrong. Awareness isn’t nothing. However, I’ve found that many people (and not to discriminate, but especially people of a more advanced age) are already set in their beliefs. They don’t want to be aware, therefore, we cannot force them to be. Really, the movement is just obnoxious noise to them. However, when this phrase first came about, I was definitely confused. Like, are we just not going to have police now? As a history teacher, I know that the idea of police are a relatively modern concept. Society did function before the existence of law enforcement. However, I did some research this time (because really, that first incident didn’t help anything) and I discovered that it’s not about cutting them off. It’s not about abolishing the system. It’s about taking the budgets that we use for the police and take a cold, hard look at how to distribute the money to make our system better for everyone. Again, I’ll link a descriptor at the bottom of this post for you so you can see how that could work. Personally, I feel that at very least the bar of requirements needs to rise. Did you know that police academy is only 600 hours? To compare, a cosmetology licence is 1500. That statistic blew my mind. If you think those two things aren’t alike, you’re not wrong. But let’s compare cops to nurses. One serves and protects, one serves and treats. The requirements for a nurse are AT MINIMUM a two year degree. If you’re going to fuss about pay differences, fine. Compare them to teachers. One protects, and one educates. Oh wait, educators are also expected to be mental health professionals (I have transcripts to prove half of all ed courses are psych courses) and safety professionals (how many active shooter/severe weather/child predator trainings have you gone to?) and also, sometimes, parents. There is not a single teacher in any accredited institution that does not have a four year degree plus completions for all of these areas. Teachers have a full plate and then some.
Supporting the Police: The above being said, policemen also have a very full plate. They’re often expected to be all things to all people. “Defunding” them would be just as beneficial for current policeman, especially the “good cops”, as it would be for the general population–if not more so! Better training, greater resources, and sharing the burden doesn’t mean just “more accountability”, but it also means less pressure and healthier working environments for police officers. Honestly, if you think the system is just fine because there are more good cops than there are bad (a statement that seems to be more an opinion than a statistic) you’re denying a better system for everyone.
Systemic Racism and White Privilege: Systemic racism is another one of those terms that you really need to go do some research on before you do any assuming. There’s really no use denying that it’s real once you understand what it is. I’ll just summarize for you what I mean. Systemic racism is not powerful people within the system pulling strings here and there to make sure the black people remain inferior to the whites all secret-society style. It’s actually more of an unconscious bias that we’ve had for the past few centuries towards black people that has influenced the way they are treated as a whole. There’s a lot to unpack with this one that would take an entire essay in and of itself, but let me just use one example. I’m a white woman that’s been aware of racism and it’s wrongs my entire life. I was raised in a Christian household where we “loved all our neighbors” and even had more minority friends than white ones in high school and college. However, I was told to stay out of the bad, Black neighborhoods. I was told that the black school in my district was hard to work at, but was surprised to learn that there was less “crime” (drugs and weed) than at the other school. The only difference was in demographic and funding. I told my black friends (and students, I’m ashamed to say) that they didn’t “act” black because they were educated and refined. Okay, so that’s a few examples, but all personal to myself. Chances are, if you’re white and you think about your own life, you’ll see that the unconscious bias is definitely real. It’s not a conscious, racist mentality. It’s conditioning that we’ve had for our entire lives–the same conditioning that suppresses their entire culture to know that they are not equal to us. We associate Blacks as dangerous, uneducated, and violent. It wasn’t until recently (even after living in a largely Black city for a year) that I became comfortable with Blacks in public and didn’t feel any sort of paranoia. The first step to eliminating it is to be conscious that it’s there and changing your personal attitude. The fact that nobody looks at me and thinks I’m threatening just because of my race should not be a privilege: it should be a right. However, in this country, most minorities will always be aware that they come with a set of connotations that they do not dictate. This means that instead of a right, it is a privilege.
Statues: Okay, this seems to be less black and white and more gray in comparison to the rest of the movement. Yes, let’s bring down those confederate statues. If we really want to remember those people, we can put them in a Civil War museum or battlefield monument. The confederate flag, if nothing else (which obviously there’s a lot to unpack there that I won’t get into) is inconsiderate and tasteless. Just think about that. If you really want to think “Well, I don’t care about their feelings and it’s about my heritage”, I can see that perspective. It’s my heritage, too. But I’m also partially German and there’s gotta be a Nazi somewhere in that bloodline back there, and you don’t see “good Americans” waving around swastikas as part of their heritage. You don’t even see modern-day Germans doing that. Enough is enough. In the same argument, let’s keep those things in history books and in museums. However (here’s where people might get touchy so please just hear me out) I’ve heard a lot of arguments about somewhat non-related statues getting taken down (for instance, George Washington). We can’t nit-pick into everyone’s past. Did Washington own slaves? Yes, because every white man with land needed slaves. He was a bit demanding on them, but actually freed them in his will. Again, I will link the source. My point is that the confederate statues are honoring people that fought for slavery and economy over lives. George Washington was a leader that believed in equality and fairness, even for his slaves, although slavery is bad. We can nit-pick through every history of every face on every statue, but the truth is that nobody is perfect. We need to decide which causes are worth leaving up and down. However, and this is my response to people that ask, the “should we/shouldn’t we” statue debate is distracting us from progress towards our future. Once everyone starts fighting over statues, we stop talking about shaping new policies and systemic changes that will progress our society to make it a better place for everyone.
Juneteenth: HOW IS THIS NOT A FEDERAL HOLIDAY?? We get Martin Luther King Jr. Day but not Juneteenth??? Like, how can you even argue with this one? Ending slavery was not only a declaration of freedom (granted Blacks would have a long road ahead of them) but also showed the world that America had chosen human lives over their economy. (An act, by the way, not unlike shutting down our economy to save the lives of high-risk citizens to a novel virus). At the very least, let’s celebrate that we care about people more than money, shall we?
Black Lives vs. All Lives: This one seems to be the most polarizing, so I’ve saved it for last. I’ve seen a lot of political stances on each side of the debate. I had a conversation with my mom where I used these arguments. “If you say all lives matter, it means you’re refusing to acknowledge that black lives don’t actually matter the way society stands. It’s like there’s a house on fire but when the fire hoses show up they spread them across all the houses because all the houses matter.” And my mom said, “All the minority houses are on fire. By saying black lives matter, are we refusing to acknowledge the rest of the minorities?” And okay, it wasn’t a bad point. After all, Native Americans arguably had the hardest hit by white Americans, and regardless how you feel about Hispanic immigrants, Hispanic-Americans also face huge bias and problems in society. Asian Americans haven’t had it great historically, either, and the virus only fueled a whole new level of aggression towards them. The world is vastly changing with the whole LGBTQ community and the constant battles that they face on a day-to-day basis, not even including the pay gap that women are still fighting to eliminate. So, in conclusion, white men are the villains. Let’s set their house on fire so we’re all equal!
Just kidding, please don’t do that. That’s not my point or goal at all.
This is my actual point with this one: yes, all minorities have it bad. I don’t know that we can historically pinpoint who has had it the absolute worst. However, how often do we have an opportunity to bring about real change on a large scale? How often do we have the world’s attention where we can make demands and see them through? I’ll say Black Lives Matter, because the movement stands for progress for all minorities. This is our chance where, together, we can fight to end racial bias. It’s time for a radical change. If we succeed with Black lives, we will have opportunities to stand up and fight for the other minorities. Black lives can bring change to all lives.
What about the negatives? So, there are a few things that I don’t want to associate with in regard to the movement. First, there is senseless rioting. I’m not talking about the destruction in Minneapolis anymore. I’m talking about people that have taken full advantage of the situation and gone to steal some things or destroy some property for personal gain in random cities during peaceful protests because they think they won’t get caught, and then defend it by saying it’s “for the cause.” However, as I said before, it is a very small percent of what is actually going on in the protesting. It’s almost not worth focusing on at all. I hate to say this because I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, but don’t be fooled by the media (as I was). Second, there is “retaliation” on cops and their families. I totally get that not every cop is a good cop and not every cop is a bad cop. There’s a mentality that cops can do no wrong and that needs to change. However, going after cops and their families does nothing but fuel the rage. Even if they are bad cops, try to leave their families out of it. Once again, improving the system protects both cops and citizens. If you won’t support the movement because you know a good cop that’s getting beat up over this, know that the message of the movement as a whole is not to beat up cops. All of that being said, there will always be a few people that are over-aggressive in their methods. Don’t base your stance on the behavior (or color) of those people.
Here is my closing statement: change begins with self reflection. Awareness has done so much, but it only goes so far. Educate yourself. Vote in local elections. Look past emotions and personal confrontations and have difficult but productive conversations. Remember that it’s not us vs. them, or black vs. white, or (as not one but two recent discussions suggested) the young people (Millennials and Gen Z) vs. the senior generation (Gen X and Boomers). We have a common goal. All you have to do is admit that there’s progress to be made. As a Christian, I know this world isn’t going to last forever. There will always be wrongdoings by people of all colors, backgrounds, and social classes. However, we have the power to choose to put an end to a part of it here and now. We cannot be complacent when we have an opportunity to improve, and this is our chance. It’s time to stand up and make a change.
Links I promised:
Protests in Los Angeles: The other three cities are accounts that I knew of from personal friends. The people I know personally near L.A. did not attend protests because of COVID-19 (similar reasons I myself did not attend locally). Even though I don’t know these guys, this account is by far the most revealing that I’ve heard about what happened in L.A. The Try Guys are some of my favorite entertainers, even though they aren’t perfect in their dealings and can be a bit crass. However, they are honest and open with their viewership. Listen to their podcast about the L.A. protests here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nADAICAeAT0 Disclaimer: they say not to share and to elevate Black voices, but proceeds from watching the video do go towards the cause.
2. George Washington and Slavery: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington_and_slavery As educators, we often tell students not to rely on Wikipedia. However, these days it’s actually pretty reliable. Most of the sources for this article are from hard cover books and not websites, which already makes it pretty high on the accuracy list.
3. Defunding the Police: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMcwklHOyYU Here’s what it means and how it could work.
4. Being unemployed and stuck at home, here’s a link I used to help support the movement. It’s a video created by a girl that combined Black artists and their art/content to raise awareness and money. I turned it on in the background while I got some work done. It’s super easy and convenient. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqUKmYofq28